I love making them, eating them, discovering new ones, and returning time and again to old favorites.
Since I was a kid, my favorite mass produced cookie has been the Fig Newton, hands down. Their fruity-cakey goodness easily beat the competitors of the day, the lowly Oreo and Chips-Ahoy. I have found over time though, that my love of the Newton is not universally shared. It is hard to find someone who doesn't love a good chocolate chip cookie, but when asked about Newtons I find that nearly half the people I ask can't stand them (not that I've spent a great deal of time trying to discern people's love/hate of Newtons, but I'm just sayin'). I don't understand these Newton haters.
I mean really, how can you not love a cookie described as:
Oo-ey goo-ey rich and chewy inside
Rich and golden, tender, flaky outside
Put the inside in the outside
Is it good?
Doin' the big Fig Newton!
I don't know about you, but I'd love a deep fried dog-doo cookie if it came with a jingle like that!
Given my level of Newton love you can imagine my excitement when I came across this recipe for "Sicilian Fig Bars" in Nick Malgieri's awesome cookbook, The Modern Baker . Nick calls them Sicilian Fig Bars 'cause it makes them sound more upscale and "Modern Baker", but I'm here to tell you these are homemade Fig Newtons….and they are awesome!
Cheers – Steve
Homemade Fig Newtons (Sicilian Fig Bars)
by: Nick Malgieri – from The Modern Baker
for the fig filling:
- 1 1/2 pounds dried Calimyrna figs
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1/4 dark rum
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
for the cookie dough:
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Line 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment or foil.
for the filling:
- Use kitchen scissors to snip the stems from the figs, and snip each fig into 5 or 6 pieces. In a large sauce pan, combine the figs, water, apricot preserves, rum, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir to mix well.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and let the filling simmer until thickened, but not extremely thick, about 10 minutes. Cool the filling and purée it in a food processor with a metal blade. You can refrigerate both the filling a dough for a couple of days if you're preparing in advance.
for the cookie dough:
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
- Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until the butter is finely mixed in, but the mixture is still cool and powdery. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball.
- Invert the bowl onto a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Briefly knead the dough 2-3 times to make it smooth.
- Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each into a rope about 12" long. Place 1 rope on a floured work surface and press and roll it to make a rectangle of dough about 4' wide and 12" long. Pipe or spoon about 1/6 of the filling down the middle of the dough, spreading it about 2" wide with a small offset spatula. Use a pastry brush to paint the exposed dough with water, then lift up the dough all around to enclose the filling within a tube of dough. Pinch the seam closed where the 2 edges of the dough meet. Turn the filled piece of dough over so that the seam is on the bottom and transfer it to one of the prepared pans. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing 3 filled dough cylinders on each pan. Gently flatten the cylinders of dough with the palm of your hand.
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 350℉. Bake the cookies until the dough is set and golden, 15-20 minutes. About halfway through the baking, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time.
- Cool the cookies on the pans. When they are cool, trim the edges and use a sharp knife to cut them into 2 1/2" lengths.
Makes about 30 cookies